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How Young Athletes Can Improve Their Speed and Sports Performance

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How Young Athletes Can Improve Their Speed and Sports Performance

A common phrase we hear from young athletes is "I want to get fitter" and "I want to start running more". The traditional view of running more to get fitter has been shown to be ineffective and is actually hurting your athletes more than you think.

Aerobic fitness is a very important aspect to many team-based field sports, and often the fitter athlete will be the more successful one. However, the definition of the "fitter" athlete seems to have shifted away from sport specific fitness and more towards who can run further.

If you look at the breakdown of movement analysis of soccer and AFL athletes, you will see that a lot of their game time is spent walking, standing still and jogging at low intensities interspersed with a high-speed effort. It should be concluded that the athlete who can consistently accelerate and reach high speeds throughout the match is the fitter athlete, over one that finishes the game with more kilometers.

The focus of conditioning training should be centered around quality repeat spring efforts and maintaining speed and acceleration under fatigue. A large emphasis, especially at younger ages, needs to be on technique and exposing athletes to different take off positions so they are prepared for the unpredictable environments of their sports. Once technique and quality of repetitions is established, this is when you can start building the volume up gradually over time.

Poor running technique will lea to injuries a lot quicker than a lack of fitness. If your young athlete doesn't understand their body positioning in the different stages of acceleration, max velocity and change of direction, then they are always going to be in a biomechanically disadvantageous position, exposing themselves to a higher risk of injury. Sound running technique and a gradual increase in sprinting volume will ensure that your athletes' muscles and tendons are robust enough to handle the repeat high intensity nature of their sports.

If you think about your adolescent athlete's week already, they are training for their sport 2 nights a week, playing a game on the weekend, strength training 2 times a week and then playing sport during lunch times and after school with their friends. The number of kilometers they clock up during the week would already be high. By introducing high distance running sets on top of this is only going to lead to injuries and burn out.

The best way for an athete to get "game fitness" is to have them playing their sports. There are no running sets that will achieve the same sport specificity as the sport itself, and so their fitness will be built up over the length of the season naturally. Thus, highlighting the importance of working on technique and quality when you have the time during preseason, and not trying to play catch up halfway through, when athletes are struggling with injuries.

A well balanced training program that is focused on all areas of fitness will help achieve overall athletic development. Strength training, plyometrics, power and mobility are all factors that will contribute to improving your young athlete's speed and sport performance.

If you're a parent, get immediate access to "A Parent's Guide to Avoiding the Top 3 Problems Facing Young Athletes Today".

For further information on how we can help your young athlete, contact us today.

Matt Hucul
Strenght Coach
Inner Athlete (AUS)

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